WHAT TWO GAMES OF THE FINAL TELL US ABOUT GAME 3 TONIGHT
1. Home-ice advantage is an advantage.
2. The Bolts will be battling both the Avs and attrition.
3. Never has Tampa bay faced as strong a team as Colorado.
4. Unless Vasilevskiy steals one, the champs are history.
5. There's no similarity between the Rangers and Colorado. none.
TWO GAME APPRAISAL
Darryl Sutter had the most accurate appraisal of post-season Colorado: "Any team playing the Avalanche is wasting four games."
The Lightning already have wasted two and if they win tonight, they will shock me to the core. Their goaltending no longer is the best in the world.
Their offense was so weak that Steve Buzinski-The-Puck-Goes-Insky would have gotten the shutout for Colorado instead of Darcy Kuemper.
As for smarts, the defending Champs played as if they were dead from the neck up.
That said, we know better than to count them out. In 1953 one of the strongest Detroit teams beat Boston, 7-0, in their semi-final opener but lost the series in six.
Tonight is "Show Me" time for the Bolts. Anything less than a W means they win The First Consecutive Attrition Award.
Right now they remind me of Madeline Kahn's show-stopping song from Blazing Saddles: "I'm Tired!"
WHAT'S WORSE THAN PESSIMISM?
Don't take my word for it when it comes to this Final. My man in The Sunshine State, Alan Greenberg, has this report on Game Two while looking ahead to Game Three.
"The Bolts were outskated, out-hustled and out-positioned. Tonight, Tampa Bay will be much better, but a two-zip deficit to a team as strong as Colorado (without Kadri) is almost insurmountable."
JUST A THOUGHT:
Bolts GM Julien BriseBois should hurry up and install 20 mirrors for his dressing room lockers. "Everyone has to look at himself in the mirror," says the Lightning's Nick Paul.
(One problem. Nick might see Cale Makar's mug staring back at him proclaiming, "No, we're the fairest of them all!")
GARY BETTMAN'S STATE OF THE NHL -- WHAT IT MEANS
The Commissioner deservedly was -- and is -- optimistic about his league's future. And why not?
* TV ratings are up after one of the most exciting seasons -- not to mention playoffs -- in history.
* A World Cup is a real possibility, if not guaranteed.
* The league's relationship with the Players' Association has been more cordial -- you could also say cooperative -- than any time that I can remember.
* From McDavid to MacKinnon to Matthews, Makar, Hedman, Draisait, Ovechkin, Crosby and on and on; never has the NHL enjoyed such a surplus of stars.
* The European scene will be mined again with an official NHL game in Prague while the Predators also make an exhibition stop in Bern, Switzerland, home of Roman Josi.
Now you know why team owners love the Commissioner and want him in power as long as he enjoys his gig. (He does; believe me, he does.)
BILL ZITO'S DILEMMA
The Panthers' general manager is losing points these days.
Alan Greenberg, who studies the Cats from sunrise to sunset, discloses The Zito Lament:
"I should say multiple dilemmas," writes Big Al. "He really needs to make a coaching decision. Even Barry Trotz has been mentioned as a successor to brunette and I say that's wrong!"
"In this observer's humble opinion, he already should have taken the interim tag away from Andrew Brunette instead of leaving him out to dry. Brunette took over under difficult circumstances and piloted the team to the Presidents' Trophy and through two rounds of the playoffs. OK, so the team was swept by Tampa Bay. Three seasons ago the Bolts suffered the same fate and people called for Jon Cooper to get fired. Then look what happened with essentially the same team.
"The fact that two Florida assistant coaches, Derek MacKenzie and Ulf Samuelsson, were let go might be a hint that "Bruno" will be retained and permitted to select his own assistants. With a year of NHL coaching under his belt, four seasons as an assistant coach and over 1,000 games as a player, Brunette unquestionably knows the game.
"Zito's on-ice decisions may have more constraints than his coaching selections. His playoff rentals, Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot, will cost more than Zito's cap will allow. He already lost sharpshooter Frank Vatrano in a salary dump and probably does not have cap room to re-sign UFA rising star Mason Marchment. To compound the problem, he already traded away first round picks for the next three years.
"The Cats have 17 players under contract for next year and just a tad over $3M in cap space. The way I see it Joe Thornton is a certain goner. Marchment and Noel Acciari can only return if Zito clears up cap room. Zito's scouts have to find him some available under-the-radar low-priced talent like they did with Marchment and Carter Verhaeghe.
"Zito will also have to hope he can pull a few gems out of nowhere like he did with last year's signing of 18-goal-scorer Anton Lundell of Liiga in Finland. He hopes to have the same success with recently-signed 26-year-old Anton Levtchi who led Liiga scorers last season while playing for Tappara Tampere.
"Zito built this team rapidly, to his credit. Retaining the talent may be another story!"
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* My vote for "Most Disappointing NHL Player" is Seth Jones. He's not the defender we thought he'd be coming out of Portland; perhaps too soon.
* The Big IF with the Denvers is all about Nazem Kadri. If he can play healthy it gives the Avs a definite offensive edge. IF.
* Speaking of "ifs," you have to wonder whether Carey Price ever will regain his old Vezina form. Or even play again for the Habs.
* Montreal is looking for a new captain. How can it not be Brendan Gallagher?
* Can you guess which seven NHL teams sold out every game this past season? I could not.
* According to my info, the Silver Seven include, Vegas, Washington,
Minnesota, Seattle, Boston, Tampa Bay and Nashville.
* Speaking of the Preds, they're reportedly up for sale with the buyer being billionaire ($2.3 billion) Bill Haslam, 63, former governor of Tennessee.
* Here's a new one on me; the Shea Weber-Evgeni Dadonov trade was defined by one analyst as "Cap Wiggling."
* My pseudo-shrink analysis of 63-year-old Torts. The fire still burns in the tummy, but there's more coolant upstairs.
* Nobody talks about it but I'm enjoying the NHL's labor peace.
* We'll see if "Peace in our NHL Time" continues with the summertime hiring of a successor to Donad Fehr, whoever that may be.
* Ray Ferraro has become the newly beloved TV analyst because he's darn good and articulate on or off-camera. Here's another reason why:
* Describing Nikita Kucherov, Rompin' Ray said: "He can steal the puck and a building can fall down around him and he'll never look like he's frustrated. (This via Joe Smith of The Athletic.)
* If you happen to be a passionate supporter of analytics, kindly tell me how this magical art enabled the Avs to win two straight over Tampa?
* Answer: You don't need analytics. Faster skaters, better shooters, tighter defense and Cale Makar.
* Tough TV question: how daring will the Lords of ESPN be in picking a replacement for Tornado Tortorella?
* One way to define Torts' announced "culture change" in Philly under his baton: SHUT UP AND LISTEN!
MOURNING PERIOD OVER FOR BRUCE CASSIDY
Easily the best thing that ever happened to Bruce Cassidy was getting canned by the Bruins. For starters, his media press agents virtually guaranteed a new, fast gig by suggesting that he's the greatest thing since -- well, who else? -- Barry Trotz. And that Cousin Brucie would be a perfect fit for just about any team not named Bolts, Knights, or Rangers. Vegas owner Bill Foley not only grabbed Cassidy but made him richer to the tune of $4.5 million over five years.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS -- TORTS, CASSIDY OFF THE MARKET
Now that John Tortorella looks like a human Wells Fargo bank, and The Sundance Kid, Cassidy, locked up the Vegas chips, does that mean that BarryTrotz "holds all the cards," as once was figured?
No, not at all. With two juicy jobs already filled and Trotz starring in an NHL version of "Silent Movie," the Invisible Barry's sound waves must be penetrating g.m. ears.
For example, if Barry really wants to coach, why hasn't he latched on to g.m. Kevin Cheveldayoff's Winnipeg offer. Being that Trotz is a Manitoba native a "yes" to the Jets seems exquisitely natural. If he prefers the tropics, Sunrise is a really warm spot.
The ever-reliable Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun predicts a Trotz once-and-for-all answer very soon. Friesen notes that Trotz loved Nashville and bought a house there. He could wind up back working for David Poile as an aide.
Meanwhile, the likes of Claude Julien, Travis Green, Jeff Blashill and Rick Tocchet await a call or, at least, word that Big-Time Barry either is taking a gig or taking a rest.
I repeat, until Trotz surfaces and tells the hockey world that he's comin' back, I say he's taking the year off. (Shhhh. I think I hear his voice in the distance. Could it be all the way from Dauphin, Manitoba?)
THAT WAS THE WEEKES THAT WAS -- OR IS -- OR WILL BE
The so-called "Insiders" are in trouble. ESPN's Kevin Weekes is out-scooping the Dregers, Friedman's and their "get it first" ilk. The ex-goaltender got another good beat with his call on John Tortorella nailing the Flyers head coaching job. The very likable Kevin, who seems all over the place, could wind up with a g.m. job but I get the feeling his multi-bit ESPN deal is more fun than sitting behind a g.m.'s desk.
RULE CHANGES, YES AND NO
One reason why Game One of the Final was decided in Colorado's favor was a delay of game penalty. The Bolts Pat Maroon fired the rubber over the glass late in the third period. When the penalty lapped over to the overtime, Tampa had successfully killed it off but the Avs had their power unit out and scored the winner
This inspired the redundant question; is an accidentally fired puck over glass worthy of a penalty? One bloc claims it's an unnecessary call unlike, hooking, holding and whatever. And with that in mind, I've carefully studied -- minus analytics, of course -- the pros and cons.
My conclusion is as basic as can be.
If your team is scored against as a result of the "over-the-glass" call then it is a terrible infraction and should immediately be deleted.
Otherwise, it should stay in the books!
WOMEN'S HOCKEY NEWS
With the Maccabi (Jewish Olympics) Games only weeks away in Jerusalem, the Canadian Women's Hockey team got a surprise visitor at a recent practice. The gals manager, Mitch Miller tells me:
"Darryl Sittler, the Maple Leafs Hall of Famer, watched the women work out. He talked to the ladies about representing Canada," says Miller. "Darryl also fondly recalled his 2010 visit to Israel with (1980 Team Canada Hero) Paul Henderson."
The tournament, beginning July 14, represents the first time women's hockey will be played in the Maccabi Games. The three participating teams include Canada, USA and Israel.
Also on the distaff side, Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla's daughter, Jade, starred for the Canadian U-18 women's team which beat Uncle Sam's sextet for the Gold Medal. Jade collected three big points in three games.
Our women's hockey guru, Rob Del Mundo writes, "Jade now joins her father as Team Canada Junior gold medalists, Jarome led Canada's entry in scoring in 1996 en route to his team's championship win."
WHO SAID IT? "When Hap Day played defense for Toronto, it cost the opposition triple money for sweaters; cause Hap clutched and grabbed so well." (Answer Below.)
RIPPING DUBAS' GOALIE I.Q.
Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons notes that the Leafs wonderboy GM has guessed wrong on the following goalies who supposedly would lead the Hogtown Hustlers: Garret Sparks, Mike Hutchinson and Petr Mrazek.
Simmons: "Letting Dubas select the next Leaf goalie is akin to throwing darts blindfolded at a target while expecting a bullseye."
THE READER'S WRITE:
Writing from Manhattan, accountant -- and long-time Devils fan -- Noam Kogen takes issue with the idea that the Rangers really are that good.
"I seriously doubt that," Kogen writes. "The Rangers had trouble beating second and third-string goaltenders in the first two playoff rounds. And it took them seven games each time.
"This current Blueshirts team reminds me of the 2012 New Yorkers who lost in the playoffs to New Jersey in a similar situation. The Rangers were not that good then and not that good now. The difference in the Devils series was that New York had to face Martin Brodeur not Antti Raanta."
MORE RANGERS FALLOUT
A reporter covering the Blueshirts breakup day offers these insights: "The most impressive element was Ryan Strome going around the room shaking hands with every media person after he spoke."
In addition, Vezina Trophy-winner, Igor Shesterkin, said that the Rangers are good enough -- as now constructed -- to win The Stanley Cup.
To which, one reporter whispered, "Absurd. If they were that good they -- and he, Igor -- wouldn't have imploded to lose four straight games."
Then, a pause and a final postscript: "Henrik Lundqvist would never have said something like that. Hank was always frustrated as hell on breakup days. Therein lies the difference!"
MEMO TO PLAYERS WHO ARE IN CHARGE OF DRESSING ROOM MUSIC
Dan Reagan, one of the top-top-of-the-line hockey producer-directors also is a nonpareil musicologist. If any team needs some better clubhouse tunes, get hold of Reagan's book. Classic Rock Songs Revealed, Volumes 1&2. (Hey, it could get you the captaincy if you play for the Rangers!)
A HILL TO CLIMB
News out of Broad Street that Flyers PR ace Zack Hill is retiring leaves me with mixed emotions. If ever there was a Joe Kadlec Best P.R. Man Award, Zack would be a multiple winner. Like Kadlec -- the original Philly press agent -- Zack was super competent, ever cooperative and always seemed to have a smile on his face. (Sometimes that grin was wider than ever after I told him a joke. Loved that man.)
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Hall of Fame defenseman Babe Pratt, a former Maple Leaf who knew Hap Day well.